What’s in a name? In the case of C.O.Q, the answer is a whole philosophy packaged (a little awkwardly) into three letters.
Standing for Community of Quality, C.O.Q is a gorgeous hotel in Paris’s 13th arrondissement, and the creation of Pauline d’Hoop and Delphine Sauvaget – two hot young things trained at the city’s Arts Décos School. Having cut their teeth at a leading design agency, the duo launched C.O.Q in spring last year, with a larger venture planned soon for Le Marais. From the salvaged portrait of Édouard Manet’s wife that greets you in the living room, to the deep blue Farrow and Ball’d walls, which perfectly offset the burnished brass pipework in the bathrooms, their design pedigree shows.
The 50-room, four-star hotel is set in a broad-fronted former private residence. With bedroom floorspace limited, the emphasis is on the ground-floor communal area – and with this comes the focus on community.
Entering from a side street, set just off the busy Place d’Italie, guests are welcomed by eager staff, all fresh-faced and lithe-limbed and decked out in smart but relaxed uniforms evocative of tennis whites. In the rooms, there’s not a whisky miniature nor a bag of peanuts in sight – and that’s intentional. You’ll need to bring yourself downstairs at cocktail hour to get an aperitif and with it, the designers hope, interact with your fellow guests.
“We said that if one day a guest came downstairs in their slippers or had a nap in the winter garden, then we would have succeeded,” explains Sauvaget. “And both of these things have actually happened.”
The winter garden is C.O.Q’s pièce de résistance. Situated at the back of the ground floor, under a grand skylight, this is a sumptuous space dotted with low-slung mid-century Danish furniture in varying types of wood, deep velvet-cushioned sofas, abundant potted plants, and Victorian objet d’arts, such as framed butterflies. It gives the feel of a curiosity shop, or the house of an ancient aunt. Either way, it instantly feels like home.
If there’s one complaint, it’s that the informal attitude of the staff can start to grate. In a hurry for dinner one night, we eschew downstairs drinks and ask for beers to be brought to the room – only to be told we’ll have to come down and collect them ourselves. The next night, it takes 40 minutes for an ironing board to be brought up.
But as evening draws in, with lights set low, all is forgiven by the allure of the winter garden. A record player beside the fireplace bears a sign inviting guests to play music from the accompanying vinyl collection. There’s a list of ten or so wines, for between €5-15 a glass, that could well be enjoyed with one of the many books heaped on shelves and piled on side tables.
In the courtyard, there’s a chicken coop in which the resident hens muster up their contribution to breakfast. Morning eggs come with fantastic chewy toast, and there’s a viennoiserie selection, make-your-own muesli and juices and coffees. As with most things at C.O.Q, this is straightforward, homely fare, of top quality, served in a relaxed fashion. Excuse the name and you’ll have found yourself a perfect little Parisian pied-à-terre to call your own.
The average visitor to Paris would be forgiven for not knowing much about the 13th arrondissement, which lies in the capital’s south-east corner. Largely residential, the area has few tourist attractions and is best-known for being home to the Quartier Chinois, or Chinatown. Inside the triangle formed by Avenue d’Ivry, Avenue de Choisy and Boulevard Masséna, you'll find bountiful restaurants serving up steaming dim sum and glistening red racks of char siu. There are plenty of South-East Asian restaurants here too, speaking to France’s colonial history in the region. Mondol Kiri (159 Avenue de Choisy, +33 1 53 79 75 96), a 12-table Cambodian restaurant waited over by incredibly friendly staff, comes highly recommended.
The rooms are as nice as the communal areas, all Scandi minimalism, but limited in space. There’s a walk-in shower and our room comes with a small street-facing balcony, but the double bed is composed of two singles pushed together, with an uncomfortable ridge down the middle – which seems particularly out of place in the city of love. To make room for the bathroom door, the wall-mounted television is irritatingly off-centre when viewed from the bed. But these niggles are largely notable for being exceptions to the rule of tasteful, thoughtful and well-executed design throughout.
15 Rue Edouard Manet, 75013 Paris, France (00 33 1 45 86 35 99; coqhotelparis.com). Rooms from €130 per night, including breakfast.
Parking: Hotel guests are offered a 50 per cent discount on nearby public parking
Access: Two wheelchair accessible rooms